CourseSmart unveils new subscription package for textbooks

CourseSmart recently announced a new research project that would provide students with a new subscription approach to digital course materials and online textbooks, as well as provide the company with a new source of recurring revenue. The subscription system, part of a collaboration with Internet2 and EDUCAUSE, is targeted toward schools, and up to 20 institutions will be invited to join the trial period of the CourseSmart Subscription Pack.

Each of the participating schools will be able to choose between two flat fee options, depending on how many students they want to cater to. The cost for 100 students is set at $27,500 per semester while the cost for 200 students is $44,000 per semester. Additionally, new students can be added for $200 each. Once a school has decided on the right pricing option, each student will gain access to a catalog of textbooks that features over 30,000 titles from 40 different publishers. Additionally, faculty members at the participating schools will gain unlimited access to CourseSmart’s entire catalog through the Faculty Instant Access (FIA) program.

“The CourseSmart Subscription Pack offers compelling benefits to both students and faculty: students can save money, reduce book load and conveniently access their books digitally in one place, and faculty can be confident they are helping students obtain needed texts and materials more economically and efficiently than ever before,” Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart, said in a statement.

The announcement of the CourseSmart Subscription Pack follows on the heels of two recent senate bills signed by California Governor Jerry Brown which were intended to reduce students’ educational costs by defraying textbook expenses. According to The Daily Aztec, the companion bills, Senate Bills (SB) 1052 and 1053, will provide students with free digital access to certain textbooks. The textbooks will be provided for 50 of the most popular and widely taken lower-division courses at schools within the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems.

Digital access of books has become a hot topic and a growing market in recent months. According to the news source, SB 1052 allows for the development of digital textbooks and creates the California Open Education Resources Council. The Council will be comprised of various faculty members at California schools, all of whom will be tasked with developing a list of targeted courses for students to take. Meanwhile, SB 1053 creates the California Digital Open Source Library to accommodate digital textbooks and any other related materials.

While none of the 20 institutions participating in CourseSmart’s trial program have been finalized or announced, some California universities are familiar with the company. According to the news source, San Diego State University (SDSU) began offering digital materials for students to rent through CourseSmart in 2008.

“For a number of years, we were CourseSmart’s number one partner,” Todd Summer, Director of Aztec Shops at SDSU, told the news source. “We were the number one campus in the country in terms of selling digital products to students. Our mission statement states that we are supposed to enhance the quality and affordability of every student’s educational experience. So, in that regard, if [the bills] do that, it’s a good piece of legislation.”

CourseSmart hopes to expand its source of recurring revenue to more campuses than just SDSU. The passing of the aforementioned bills, coupled with the company’s trial research project, could see a vast expansion of digital textbooks in the coming months.

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The Forrester Wave: Subscription Billing Platforms, Q4 2015

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